Departments and Ministries
Dear Dr. Smith
17. Dear Dr. Smith,
Despite several attempts, I have found it extremely difficult to move beyond my parents' separation without excluding them from my life. In other words, I cannot relate to them or even think about them without feeling regret for things I may or may not have said or did that might have led to this result.
They tried to stay together for as long as possible for the sake of my sibling and myself and somehow found the opportunity to try to get us to take sides, and so I had to be very careful about how I spoke because my words would be used to feed their arguments against each other etc.
My only means of dealing with this is trying to erase these memories, but I've found it impossible to do so without actually erasing my parents from my memory. I have extreme difficulty believing that I didn’t at least contribute to the marital breakdown. My overly concerned and sensitive personality won’t permit me to feel otherwise.
Having recently gotten married, I'm now concerned that my unresolved issues may eventually affect my marriage. Is it possible for me to get over this without regressing?
-A concerned friend
Dear Concerned Friend,
I understand your concern for your parents and the posttraumatic stress you might be experiencing as a result of their separation. However, you must move beyond your point of pain, feelings of guilt and regret. It is possible that you might have said or did things that caused problems in your parent’s relationship, but that is certainly no reason for them to separate. They are the parents you are the child and part of their parental responsibility is to deal with whatever comes up with their children without making it affecting their marriage.
You claimed that they tried to stay in the marriage for as long as they could for the sake of the children. Well, too bad, that’s no reason to stay in a marriage. People stay in a marriage because of the commitment they made to each other at the altar and not because of their children.
The notion of getting children to take sides is called “Coalition” a ‘detouring coalition’ is one in which the couple hold a third family member (in your case you or your sibling) partly responsible for their difficulties or conflicts with each another. You are old enough to walk away from that now. Stop worrying about the failed marriage of you parents and concentrate on you own marriage. If you don’t, then the same fate will meet yours.
You can separate your memories from you parents; one does not necessarily condition the other. You can cognitively re-structure your though process to suppress or erase painful memories, without ignoring the fact that your parents exist and that you should relate to them in a congenial way.
If there is one thing that you can remember from my response, please let it be this, “YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR PARENTS FAILED MARRIAGE.” That is a choice they made and would have made whether you were born or not. I do hope you will pay great attention to your marriage and do not take any of the baggage into it.
Promise yourself that the failures of your parents will not be repeated in your relationship. Learn from their mistakes and ask God to bless and keep you and your husband. And yes, it is posssible for you to get over this without regressing. Remember, you can do all thing through Christ who strengthens you.
Have a happy, peaceful and prosperous married life.